NORTH NEWTON — As college seniors across the country scramble to complete final projects under extraordinary circumstances, two from Bethel College face one of the bigger challenges.
What do you do when your project, by definition, is meant for people to visit and look at — and everything is closed?
Elizabeth Friesen Birky, of Denver, and Emma Girton, of Wichita, are completing individualized majors at Bethel in art history. Friesen Birky has an additional major in communication arts.
Almost literally at the same hour as the two finished their co-curated senior exhibit “Meta: An Exhibition about Exhibitions,” the staff of Bethel’s Kauffman Museum, where the exhibit is mounted, decided to close the museum to the public.
“We were working on getting the exhibit put together basically until the last possible moment,” Girton said. “When it became clear that we were likely not going to be able to have all of the celebrations and exciting pieces that come along with opening an exhibit, we were for sure pretty bummed out.”
However, she said, “We were committed to maintaining our opening deadlines whether people would be able to actually come into the museum or not. Luckily, the team at Kauffman Museum, especially (2019) Bethel graduate Rebecca Schrag, really had a vision and a goal to make sure that what we had been working on would still be seen.”
The team used an open-source software that turns Google Earth photos or your own 180- or 360-degree photos into virtual reality, Schrag said.
“We were able to import iPhone panorama photos into Google Tour Creator and create a virtual space,” she said.
The virtual tour for “Meta: An Exhibition about Exhibitions” is at https://tinyurl.com/metavirtualexhibit
Girton and Friesen Birky have a career goal of continuing in museum work. Girton looks forward to her fourth summer at the Wichita Art Museum, while Friesen Birky will be spending the fall at the Washington Community Scholars’ Center with a museum internship (she hopes for the Smithsonian).